Jodie Sloan unites heartbreak & health for Project Red

Student artist uses textiles to explore grief

Jodie Sloan with her piece, “Heartbreak, grief, and growth.”
Photo by Meg Kirkpatrick

For Jodie Sloan, ArtSci ’19, art isn’t just a lens for understanding heartbreak and trauma: it’s catharsis.

In her final year as a Fine Arts student, Sloan draws on personal experiences and her newfound passion for textiles to create clothing that captures emotional intensity, ranging from grief to heartache.  

This semester, she was one of the designers for Project Red’s ninth annual fashion show, hosted last Friday to raise awareness and funds for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

The theme of this year’s show, “Pulse,” struck a chord with Sloan, who shares the organization’s desire to promote the importance of mental health in overall wellness. The club’s goal was a natural fit with her own artistic vision, which seeks to diminish the stigma surrounding mental illness, grief, and emotional vulnerability.

Hoping to evoke “Femme Fatale heartbreaker vibes,” Sloan said she wanted her pieces for the show to be light and fun. Taking a cue from the “Pulse” theme, the heart—and all it represents—is a foundation of her work.

“For me, my artwork very much focuses on the heart. I think that’s a huge theme of mine,” Sloan told The Journal on the afternoon of the event. “Heartbreak, the heart beating, and deep emotions you feel in your chest.” 

Sloan began experimenting with textiles last semester, when she created “Heartbreak, grief, and growth” for the BFA program. The piece consists of three dresses hung on metal forms, welded to look like skeletal bodies.

Sloan welcomes juxtaposition between the soft materials of the dresses and the metal’s harshness. By exploring the two mediums, she’s been able to represent facets of her personal life, manifesting the feelings of grief and heartache she’s experienced after losing a loved one.

“I lost my brother to suicide so I use that feeling of getting the news and feeling your heart drop,” Sloan said. “That’s kind of what I use to inform my work.”

In a nod to traditional funeral garb, the first dress of the series is made of gold material and features two fragments of a heart held together by string, meant to express the heartbreak that comes with loss. The second dress, which is covered in fabric tears, represents grief, processing, and “letting [emotions] out,” Sloan said. The third is adorned with flowers and symbolizes rebirth.

By using textiles and metal, Sloan’s able to translate her emotions into art almost instantly, a process she finds therapeutic. 

“I’m such a tactile person and I love working with materials,” she said. “When I decide to create something I want to be able to create it right away and then have it not be done necessarily but start moving.”

Sloan fashions her clothing without sewing patterns, often using her body as a template throughout the process. In part, she attributes this hands-on approach to childhood experiences in her father’s home art studio, where she spent time moulding clay and wax, painting, and drawing.

Fostered from a young age, her creativity’s benefited from one-on-one attention from Queen’s professors and her program’s small class size. Whether or not she decides to pursue fine art in the future, she’s thankful for the role it’s continued to play in her life.  

“Art is just so made for me right now,” Sloan said. “I just love using my hands and making. I [couldn’t] see myself doing anything else at Queen’s.


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